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MoCo Has Ended Veteran Homelessness

There are no more homeless veterans in Montgomery County according to County Councilmember At-Large George Leventhal. Earlier this week, Leventhal, who ended his stint as President of the County Council on Dec. 1, tweeted “Montgomery County has successfully found housing for every identified homeless veteran — a total of 58 vets no longer homeless.”

Montgomery County has reached its goal of ending homelessness for County veterans by achieving a “functional zero” level, 54 veterans were housed this year and four more are anticipated to have homes by the end of 2015.

Montgomery County entered into a public-private partnership and participated in two national campaigns to make it happen: the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness led by First Lady Michelle Obama and the Zero: 2016 Campaign. The County was in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs DC Medical Center, the County’s Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Housing Opportunities Commission, Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless and Bethesda Cares, among other agencies serving veterans.

Montgomery County was selected for Zero: 2016 through a competitive, national application process. The Zero: 2016 movement, coordinated by Community Solutions, consists of 75 communities working to end Veteran and chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. Those participating track progress against monthly housing goals and accelerate the implementation of proven strategies.

According to Community Solutions, people experiencing homelessness are three times more likely to die from treatable and preventable illnesses. A study commissioned by the nonprofit found that on average, taxpayers save an average of $13,000 per year for each person moved into permanent housing because of reduced costs in emergency services, such as emergency health care, emergency mental care, and jail, all of which are associated with homelessness.

According to a the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, “This achievement was made possible through a $500,000 commitment by the County supplementing existing resources from the VA to ensure all identified veterans, especially those with the highest vulnerabilities, are supported with appropriate housing placements.”

“Housing every identifiable homeless veteran in Montgomery County has always been and continues to be one of my top priorities,” said Councilmember George Leventhal, who serves as chair of the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee. “Montgomery County now has a coordinated and efficient system, which has been developed with our community partners, to ensure that every veteran in our County has access to the supports needed to move quickly from homelessness to permanent housing. Providing a stable home for our veterans is simply the right thing to do for those who have sacrificed so much to our country.”

MCCH received $300,000 in County funding to create a new permanent supportive housing program called Operation Homecoming. Operation Homecoming has the capacity to support 15 single adult veterans and 5 families with a veteran head of household who are deemed the most vulnerable in the County. Executive Director Susie Sinclair-Smith said, “No veteran who has served our nation should ever experience homelessness. Targeted efforts, dedicated resources and the political will were the keys to successfully reaching this milestone goal. We look forward to the lessons learned from serving veterans to pave the way for ending homelessness for other targeted groups including youth and chronically homeless individuals.”

Bethesda Cares received $200,000 in County funding to create a rapid re-housing program, which has the capacity to support 15 veterans (both individuals and families). “While we are celebrating this huge achievement with our partners, we are so grateful that those who have served their country now have a place to call home. It has been our honor and sacred duty,” reflected Executive Director Susan Kirk.”

The county’s data still needs to be certified by both campaigns.

Editor’s Note: Cynthia Cotte Griffiths is the editor and publisher of Rockville View, an online news and information Website devoted to Rockville, Md.

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